Stonelick residents want collapsed historic Stonelick Covered bridge rebuilt despite costs

Trustee confident bridge will be repaired

STONELICK TWP., Ohio – Residents of Stonelick Township say they want a piece of history restored, no matter the cost.

A portion of the Stonelick Covered bridge on Stonelick-Williams Corner Road collapsed Tuesday as construction crews worked to rehabilitate it.

Four construction workers were on the bridge at about 2:30 p.m. when the shell of the bridge caved. The cause of the collapse remains under investigation.

No injuries were reported and the bridge remains closed, officials said.

"It was an extremely close call," said Clermont County Engineer Pat Manger.

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For 30 years, Stonelick Township resident Catherine Rush-Ossenbeck has called the Stonelick Covered bridge her neighbor.

She said she was nearby when it began to collapse.

"All of a sudden, I heard this huge enormous crash,” Rush-Ossenbeck said. "(The workers) were like, ‘Oh my God,’ just putting their hands up in like just horror… My eyes were seeing what happened but my mind was not relating to it."

Stonelick Township Trustee John Handley said he had to see the aftermath of the bridge collapse to believe it.

"It kind of makes me sick to my stomach. It's a real shame," Handley said. "It was scary. Now it's laying in the creek. It was eerie."

The Stonelick Township Bridge was built in 1878 and is the only covered bridge in Clermont County.

The bridge was closed in May of 2010 after a dozen floor joists were damaged by a truck crossing the span.

Repairs were estimated to cost $1.2 million at the time and would have been completed in 2012 if the money was available.

If members of the community want the bridge to be rebuilt, Handley said he is confident it will be -- even though Tuesday's collapse means that cost will be even higher.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials visited the bridge Wednesday, which is typical after a workplace accident.

Crews at the bridge said the first order of business is to remove the debris from the creek, inspect the rubble and decide what’s salvageable.

"(I’m feeling) disappointment and a little bit of anger,” said Stonelick Township resident Danny Gilkson. “Just a shame. It’s one of the last ones in Clermont County."

Gilkson said he has fond memories of the bridge.

"A lot of times we walked to the covered bridge and took pictures of it for Christmas cards," he said.

Like many Stonelick Township residents, Gilkison and Rush-Ossenbeck both want the connector back -- which is why Manger said the county’s goal is to get the structure back to its original operation.

"This bridge is an icon of the county,” Rush-Ossenbeck said. “It's the only one left in the county, or was. And it’s a symbol."

Manger said crews will soon begin removing the bridge from the creek so it will not become a dam.

He said he will meet with a Columbus contractor this week to evaluate the situation and determine what steps should be taken next.

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